Football: Keegan happy to stand by his backroom boys

THE ENGLAND manager, Kevin Keegan, insisted yesterday that he had no plans to make any major changes to his coaching staff in the run- up to the Euro 2000 finals. It is understood that he is not being put under pressure to do so from his employers at the Football Association.

Keegan has been accused of tactical naivety by his critics in the wake of England's 1-0 home defeat to Scotland last week and there have been suggestions he should hire an experienced figure such as Don Howe or Dave Sexton to work alongside him. Keegan, however, appears to be fully confident in the abilities of his back-up staff, that includes Arthur Cox, Derek Fazackerley and Ray Clemence. "We can all take criticism and we will use it for our benefit," he said. "I've got top players who are with me 100 per cent and I've got a good staff."

Asked about whether he planned to bring in any coaching back-up, Keegan replied: "I took the job and was given the job on the basis of what I'd achieved so far and the things I'd done at various clubs. There's no reason to change that."

Keegan accepted that "99.9 per cent" of the criticism had been justified but he insisted there was a lot to look forward to, including a friendly against Argentina in February and a possible game against Brazil in May, before the Euro 2000 finals and was determined to avoid a siege mentality developing within the camp.

Although he did not respond to the criticism of his decision to stay up until dawn with four of his England players to watch the Lennox Lewis fight following the game at Hampden Park, there was another comment which had clearly angered him.

That was from an unidentified FA councillor, who was quoted as expressing an extreme view in his opposition to the technical director Howard Wilkinson in an article which appeared in a national newspaper last Saturday.

The comment apparently not only caused distress to Wilkinson's family but also angered the FA chairman, Geoff Thompson, who has sent a strongly- worded letter to all 92 FA councillors on the subject. This stated that the comment was unacceptable and asked for councillors to disassociate themselves from the view by return of post.

The FA are keen to stress that Keegan retains their full support and he was congratulated on guiding the national team to the Euro 2000 finals when he made a brief appearance before the governing body's international committee yesterday.

Meanwhile, an immediate crackdown on players making obscene or insulting gestures to opponents or supporters during games has been announced by the FA. So far this season Manchester United's David Beckham and Arsenal's Fredrik Ljungberg have both received warnings for making gestures.

From this weekend, future offenders will be charged with misconduct and face the prospect of a fine or possible suspension. The FA will, however, require independent evidence from match officials, police officers and possibly television replays before taking action.

A letter warning of the policy has been sent out to all 92 clubs as well as the Professional Footballers' Association and the League Managers' Association.

The FA spokesman Steve Double said: "We realise that players, particularly at the top level, have to deal with at times unacceptable amounts of provocation. But they have an important responsibility not to respond and inflame any situation. From now on, any such cases will be treated with the utmost seriousness."

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